Are SARMs Safe? Why are so many people putting their trust in SARMs and leaving AAS behind? Here is our unbiased view…
For decades, AAS (anabolic-androgenic steroids, or just anabolic steroids) were the most common kind of drug associated with bodybuilding. Always under the radar, of course, because they are illegal and known to carry a number of hefty health risks and side effects.
But then along came a new breed of compounds. These supplements showed real promise for treating muscle wasting diseases and other catabolic health issues, and they had very few side effects – and even those only seemed to occur at super-high doses or silly cycle lengths. Used properly, it seemed like this new set of compounds could deliver the benefits of anabolics, without all the bad associations.
What were these new compounds? SARMs – or selective androgen receptor modulators.
SARMs are now so popular that everyone wants to know how to use them, which one to use, how to stack them and of course.
But are SARMs safe? How come they are banned by WADA? Why aren’t they sold over-the-counter?
Let’s answer all your questions about SARMs and safety.
What are SARMs?
SARMs are synthetic drugs developed by pharma companies for their potential impact on muscle wasting diseases and other issues (including loss of bone density, catabolism, and tissue loss). SARMs work by only binding to specific cellular androgen receptors (this selective quality means they have little to no impact on organs and hormones).
Are SARMs Legal?
SARMs are legal but in most countries classed as “investigatory chemicals”. In short, this means that they cannot be sold as supplements; but rather ‘for research purposes’.
Confusing? Not really. Some SARMs are in clinical trials with the hope that they could be used in future to treat human health conditions. But for now, SARMs are not approved by the FDA. This means they can be sold as research chemicals but not as food supplements.
SARMs are all banned by WADA (the World Anti Doping Agency) under the S1 Anabolic Agent category of the Prohibited list, which means you shouldn’t use them if you compete in any drug tested sport. This includes drug tested bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman. The reason for this is because they really do have the potential to greatly enhance performance, giving the user a very unfair advantage over other athletes. Ultimately, SARMs work. And very effectively.
If you’re wondering about the SARMs legislations in your country, read our blog post here for more information.
Why Do Bodybuilders Use SARMs?
SARMs all work by increasing lean mass and healthy tissue in the body – including muscle mass and connective tissue. They can also help you burn more body fat and – crucially – retain muscle mass whilst you lose fat. On a diet, you would normally expect to lose some muscle as you cut calories to lose fat. SARMs help prevent this, so you end up leaner but also with bigger, harder, denser muscles and more strength.
Many bodybuilders are switching from steroids to SARMs, so if we’re asking “are SARMs safe?”, we should also take into consideration just how much safer they are than AAS.
SARMs vs Steroids
Steroids are known for some pretty scary side effects, including gynecomastia, acne, mood swings and aggression and irreversible effects on sexual organs. Women users can expect changes to face shape, facial hair growth, and serious lowering of the voice.
SARMs don’t have these effects. They can come with side effects but this has mostly been reported when users have way overdone it with dosages or length of the cycle. If you stick to the recommended dose and cycle duration, you can expect all the benefits with none of the risks. This is all because of their selective nature – they don’t work on a scattergun approach in your body like AAS do. They get to work on selected receptors and leave everything else alone!
As research chemicals, SARMs are still being studied and their full effects are still unknown. But studies give some indication to the safety of SARMs. This 2015 study is a comparative safety evaluation of SARMs and AAS, and it found that SARMs have “some advantages” over AAS, concluding that:
…based on the robust tissue selectivity of SARMs over AASs, they are worth considering as a promising therapeutic option for the treatment of various muscle-wasting diseases.
- SARMs are less powerful than AAS, but still have notable effects which you will see and feel
- SARMs carry far less risk, which lowers to practically nothing if you use a sensible dose and cycle length
- SARMs won’t have a long-term impact on your hormones, organs, or Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testes axis
- Any mild suppression can be fixed with a PCT after SARMs use
For a more in-depth comparison between SARMs and AAS, see our SARMs Vs Steroids blog post.
Risks & Side Effects Of SARMs?
As we said, there are some side effects with SARMs (just as there is with any drug, even over the counter and herbal ones). If you keep to the recommended doses of SARMs and keep your cycle duration sensible, you shouldn’t expect any side effects. It is sensible to follow up a SARMs cycle with PCT in any case.
The main side effect to look out for is hormone suppression. YK11, RAD-140, LGD-4033, MK-2866, S-23, and ACP-105 are known to be suppressive. This can be largely managed by taking the proper dose, keeping cycles short and using PCT after the SARMs cycle.
Signs of suppression include low mood and low energy. DW-501516, SR-9099, and MK-677 are non-suppressive and don’t need any PCT.
- MK-677 may cause some bloating (it increases appetite)
- Ligandrol may cause testosterone suppression
- Ostarine may cause testosterone suppression at doses above 25mg per day if used for longer than 4 weeks
- Andarine may lead to temporary night vision disruption at higher doses – it is strongly recommended to stay within the recommended dosage range
- Testolone is potent and suppresses natural hormone production (so use a PCT)
- Some SARMs may cause some headaches, backache, hair loss and acne – using lower dosages and assessing your body’s response is always the best protocol
Read our SARMs Cycle Guide and Dosages blog post to learn the safest and most effective methods.
So Are SARMs Safe?
So are SARMs safe? The biggest risk of using SARMs is finding good quality products. Because SARMs have not yet been approved by the FDA, some of the so-called SARMs you find online are mixed with other ingredients (including banned substances) or are downright fake.
So your first task is finding good quality SARMs from trusted manufacturers and distributors. Always be confident in what you are buying before you take any SARM. You have to be sure that your SARM is what it says it os – your health (both now and in the long term) are paramount.
Our conclusion – are SARMs safe? Yes, when used correctly.
Are SARMs Safe for Women?
SARMs can offer a safer alternative to hardcore compounds with a much lower risk of virilisation side-effects. This is the main reason a lot of women have started using SARMs instead of compounds like Anavar. SARMs are highly effective for women and will increase muscle building and fat burning considerably and almost immediately.
Most women will find SARMs almost as effective as steroids but it’s very important to stay within recommended dosage levels which aren’t the same as for men. It’s also vital to follow sensible cycle protocols, allowing your body to recover in between. Researching the different compounds thoroughly is the first step to ensuring your progress is safe. The most popular options are Andarine (S-4) and Ostarine. Other compounds similar but not actually SARMs are Cardarine and MK-677.
Are SARMs safe for women? SARMs aren’t completely side effect free but they do have much fewer side effects when used correctly. You should always start off with the lowest possible dose and don’t go beyond the recommended dose unless you are comfortable with the potential side-effects. When women use SARMs, they can also experience increased sex drive which can be a bonus for some!
Building Muscle Safely
Whilst SARMs can have a lot of benefits for building muscle mass and strength, never forget that there is a lot more to it than the supplements you take. Are you ticking all these boxes? If not, look to these basics before you even think about using SARMs.
- Calories: you need to be in a calorie excess to grow
- Food quality: food quality does count, make sure your meals include micronutrients, fibre, and phytonutrients
- Protein: muscle gain requires adequate protein intake, aim for at least 30g every 2-4 hours
- MPS: muscle protein synthesis is key to growing muscle tissue
- Hydration: good hydration helps with digestion, nutrient uptake, and health
- Sleep: aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night for good recovery, mood and diet adherence
- Stress management: keep stress to a minimum and control what you can, stress is catabolic